The Orwell estate filed a bogus copyright and publicity right theft against an inactive Cafepress store where no one had ever bought one of the "1984 is already here" shirts or tea-towels on offer from film critic Josh Hadley.
Cafepress immediately took down the items, but Hadley says he'll post the shirts to his store and push the Orwell estate into litigation if necessary.
Needless to say:
* There's no copyright in titles.
* The title of Orwell's novel is "Nineteen Eighty-Four," not "1984".
* "1984" is not a quote from George Orwell.
* If titles were copyrightable and if Orwell's book was called 1984, a t-shirt that said "1984 is already here" would be fair use.
* Orwell himself would be have appalled to learn that a pack of professional descendants were using his good name to censor political speech more than half a century after his death.
"First off is the irony of the estate of George Orwell being all Orwellian but second is that you can't copyright a number," he tells TF.
"The US Copyright office has long since established this and second they are claiming I am using 'quotes' from the book. Look at the image in question and tell me what 'quotes' I used."
CafePress has pulled the designs offline and they are now listed as "pending" in Hadley's dashboard. In theory, he could appeal the takedown but he has no plans to do so.
ORWELL ESTATE SENDS COPYRIGHT TAKEDOWN OVER THE NUMBER "1984" [Ernesto/Torrent Freak]